Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 26, 2012

Names All Children’s Writers Should Know

qwen conneleyCard-2012small

This Christmas card was sent in by Gwen Connolley.

Even before the recent nightmare in Connecticut, the spirits of many seemed a bit dampened for the holidays this year.  Sometimes it can require effort, at least for us grown ups, to see beyond our troubles and discover that simple joys can be found even in dark or stressful times.  I think most holidays were created by and for those who need to find reason to be joyful in otherwise dire times.  I would like to encourage others to seek and to find that life and light and love perpetually surround us.  You can find more of my illustrations at
Best wishes to you for the holidays and in the coming new year!

Names All Children’s Writers Should Know How To Spell: A Tribute to Kidlit Greatness 

Though the below descriptions/explanations are mine, this list is from a lecture by Shelley Tanaka, an award-winning nonfiction children’s author, Canadian children’s book publisher and editor (link: 

In preparation of starting my studies at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in pursuit of an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults in less than a month from now, I came across a handout from one of my teachers, Shelley Tanaka, which, with her gracious permission, I would like to share with you. This list is more than a checklist of names with tricky spellings – although it’s that too. It is a reminder of our roots as children’s writers. These are the names of the great kidlit warriors, whose shoulders we are all trying to stand on.

(Note: Don’t feel bad if you don’t know all of them. I had to look up a couple!)

  1. Newbery Medal. Named after an  English bookseller John Newbery, the medal aims to recognize excellence in      young people’s literature.
  2. Hans Christian Andersen. Yes, we all know the wonderful andwhimsical storyteller from Denmark – author of  numerous fairytales, novels, poetry and more — but some of us sometimes confuse his name with Anderson, as in M.T. Anderson, another name to know in young people’s literature, by the way).
  3. Noel Streatfield. A Carnegie-medal winning English author.
  4. Katherine Paterson. The beloved author of many young adult and children’s novels, including my personal      favorite, Newbery-winning “Bridge to Terabithia.”
  5. Stephenie Meyer. Some in kidlit circles like to look down on this author of the wildly popular “Twilight” saga. But she has definitely proved herself a force to be reckoned with, luring millions of girls to her romance with a vampire. Did you know that in addition to writing, Meyer is a film producer?  Her production company is behind a movie based on Shannon Hale’s adult work, “Austenland.” (Yes, Shannon Hale’s another great one.)
  6. Kate DiCamillo. Best known as theNewbery-winning author of  sometimes tender, sometimes whimsical fiction for children, DiCamillo has also written picture books, early chapter books and published stories for adults.
  7. Diana Wynne Jones. Born in London in 1934 and having passed away just last year, Jones was best known for her numerous fantasy novels for children and adults.
  8. Ursula K. Le Guin. This author of  several popular children’s series (as well as standalone stories), was a huge influence on many of the fantasy and science-fiction novels we read today.
  9. Kenneth Grahame. This Scottish author wrote such children’s classics as “The Wind and The Willows,” and “The Reluctant Dragon,” both of which became Disney films.
  10. Rosemary Sutcliffe. This British novelist was best known for her exciting historical fiction for young readers – especially her Arthurian stories (some of which were for adults).
  11. Arthur Ransome. Another Englishman, considered one of the classic children’s authors, best known for his “Swallows in Amazons” adventure series set in between two world wars.
  12. J. R. R. Tolkien. Though he didn’t write for children specifically, one could easily call him one of the founding fathers of fantasy, influencing such modern works as the “Harry  Potter” series by Tolkien’s fellow Englishwoman J. K. Rowling (and yes, I trust we’ve all heard about her, and know her name’s spelling). Though of course fantasy was written before his time, it seemed his “Lord of the Rings” series resurrected the once-dying genre.
  13. Madeleine L’Engle. Much beloved and missed, this American Newbery-winning author passed away in 2007. In her obituary, the New York Times described her work as “childhood fables, religious meditations and fanciful science fiction” that “transcended both genre and generation, most memorably in her children’s classic ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’”


I love the quote on her website: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 

  1. Horn Book. This magazine publishes articles about trends in children’s and young adult literature in print      and online, including its influential reviews. Each year, the staff chooses a list of what they considered to be the very best titles from among 500-plus books they have reviewed. (link:

There are two more I’d like to add to this list:

15. Laurie Halse Anderson. Another great author name with literary spelling, this versatile YA giant writes books on difficult subjects spanning from rape and anorexia, to slavery.

16. SCBWI! Founded in 1971, by several Los Angeles writers, including the versatile Stephen Mooser, author of more than 50 works, including picture books and chapter books, and the middle-grade series author Lin Oliver, our beloved Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators is a source of knowledge and support, organizer of conferences and forger of great ties, and a promoter of children’s literature all around the world.

Of course this list only barely scratches the surface, and if she chose to Ms. Tanaka could probably have come up with a book filled with names of importance. But if there is anything you’d like to add to the list, please post a comment, below.

Katia Raina is the author of “Castle of Concrete,” a young adult novel about a timid half-Russian, half-Jewish teen in search of a braver “self” reuniting with her dissident mother in the last year of the collapsing Soviet Union, to be published by Namelos. On her blog, The Magic Mirror, Katia talks about writing and history, features interviews, book lists and all sorts of literary randomness.

Katia will start her MFA program in January 2013 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, pursuing a degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults. (link:  

Talk tomorrow,


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